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Our rockstar teacher for June 2023 is Mrs. Jill Thompson

Kelly Walsh High School, Casper, Wyoming

A conversation with Mrs. Thompson

Why were you called to teach personal finance?
What began as an elective class when I started at Kelly Walsh High School in 2003 has been a graduation requirement for our students for the past seven years. Leading the curriculum team for our school district’s junior and senior students and seeing the impact our classes can have on their immediate life as well as their future behavior motivates me to continue making sure our students have every opportunity to learn about financial literacy. Due to the ever-changing world of personal finance, teaching FinLit has kept me invigorated and motivated to continue learning and teaching.

How do you bring personal finance to life in your classroom?
I bring personal finance to life in my classroom by sharing stories about my past (yes, I had student loans) and current (yes, my children paid cash for college and yes, that new vehicle was paid for with cash) choices and how that has affected my personal family life. Allowing the students to explore different situations while in a safe environment allows them to ask questions and understand the consequences of different choices. NGPF has a wonderful arcade game called Payback during which students make decisions to get to and through college. Each fall, we play the game in class and then students submit an actual scholarship application to me for the Payback Challenge which NGPF offers. Since its inception, I’ve had a student win a scholarship which demonstrates to the students the importance of “if you don’t apply, you can’t win.”

What was your “aha” moment?
Each year, I have parents who say they are happy that their son/daughter is taking a financial literacy course in high school. When I tell people at the gym, the grocery store, the doctor’s office, actually everywhere, that I teach Financial Literacy, they all tell me that it’s a necessary course and wish they had taken that in high school. Adults get it! They see a need for it! The real “aha” moments are when young adults come back for a visit, send a message, or run into me in the community and tell me what financial decisions they’ve been making and how their knowledge from class helped them when buying a car, paying for college, starting a job, buying a house, investing (you name it, we probably discussed it in class!). Some students take their new discoveries and turn them into a career! A former student is now working at the Federal Reserve, one is in wealth management, another accounting!

What else do you want us to know?
Little did I know in the fall of 2012, when an associate superintendent asked me to attend a financial literacy conference in Chicago how my professional life was about to change! I have attended Jump$tart’s National Educator Conference now for 10 years (the 2020 conference was canceled due to Covid). Nothing can surpass the importance of a face-to-face conference which provides a weekend of being treated like royalty, relevant professional development, access to professionals and their resources, as well as like-minded attendees, many of whom have become great friends. Being involved in the financial literacy community continues to impact my life. I am an inaugural member of the Next Gen Personal Finance Fellows Program, co-author of TL; DR: Financial Literacy for Employees in the Wyoming Public Employee Pension Plan, spearheaded and helped create a financial literacy training for all employees of Natrona County School District #1 in Casper, Wyoming, and enjoy helping adults set a realistic budget to help them prepare for their futures.

Mrs. Thompson’s favorite resources
Next Gen Personal Finance (I incorporate many lessons and activities and my students and I never miss a FinCap Friday with Yanely), Ramsey Classroom, and the Federal Reserve. I’m looking forward to spending time this summer with two books: Dan Sheeks’ First to a Million and Yanely Espinal’s Mind Your Money and incorporating their messages into my curriculum. All students at my high school take the Wise Financial Literacy exam and have the opportunity to become certified at the end of the semester.

More about Mrs. Thompson
In my spare time, I enjoy spending time with my husband of 36 years hiking in the Southern Wind River Range in Wyoming, fishing, and strolling the beaches along Florida’s coast. Currently, I am sitting in a campground at Merritt Reservoir in Nebraska while our 9 month old grandson is napping! Not only has financial literacy education to students become my professional passion but passing on my knowledge and behavior to my own children has been a wonderful opportunity to continue my legacy!